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Chile Transportation
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Figure 10. Transportation System, 1993

    The heavy regulation of the transportation sector--including railroads, air transport, marine shipping, and buses--represented a tremendous barrier to international competitiveness. For all these means of transportation, reforms were enacted in the 1970s that were aimed at establishing a competitive environment and widening the participation of the private sector. Railroads were greatly affected by the imposition of self-financing discipline in the mid-1970s. With their infrastructure already failing, financial discipline forced further delays in maintenance programs. The growing demand for transportation services found a more dynamic response in the trucking industry, which developed as a more reliable and economic alternative and surpassed railroads in movement of freight.

    Chile's internal transport network is basically well developed, although in need of considerable improvement. To that end, in late 1991 President Aylwin announced a US$2.4 billion public-sector investment program, designed to upgrade the neglected transport infrastructure. There are 7,766 kilometers of railroads (3,974 kilometers of 1,676-meter gauge, 150 kilometers of 1,435-meter standard gauge, and 3,642 kilometers of 1,000-meter gauge), fourfifths of which are state-owned (see fig. 10). In addition, there are 1,865 kilometers of 1,676-meter gauge and eighty kilometers of 1,000-meter gauge electrified. The privately owned segment, located mostly in the desert north, totals 2,130 kilometers. A total of 8,185 kilometers of track connect the northern terminal of Iquique to Puerto Montt in the south. That trunk line is being increasingly electrified. Feeder lines run westward to the ports and seaside resorts and eastward to mines and mountain resorts. Four international railroads run to northwestern Argentina and to Bolivia and Peru; two of these lines link Chile with Bolivia between Arica and La Paz (448 kilometers) and between Antofagasta and La Paz via Calama. Except for the international routes to La Paz, passenger service to the north of Santiago has been suspended. There is no passenger service on the Chile-Argentina line.

    The government plans to refurbish and modernize the State Railroad Company (Empresa de Ferrocarriles del Estado). The Aylwin government was planning to invest US$98 million in infrastructure improvements in 1993 and was considering the creation of joint ventures with private companies to run the cargo transportation services. The Santiago metro is also to be expanded.

    Roads are the principal means of moving people and freight. It was only in the 1960s that a paved road had been completed, linking the extreme north with Puerto Montt at the far southern tip of the Central Valley (Valle Central), and it was only in the mid-1970s that construction began on a north-south road from Puerto Montt into the extreme south. Transversal roads run east and west from the north-south highway. These include the northern Arica-Santos Highway to Bolivia and the southern Trans-Andean Highway between Valpara�so and Mendoza (Argentina).

    Chile's road network totals approximately 79,025 kilometers that can be used year-round. Of the total network, 9,913 kilometers are paved, including the Pan American Highway (Longitudinal Highway), which extends, with the opening of the Southern Highway (Gran Carretera Austral) in 1989, about 4,700 kilometers to Puerto Yungay in the south. The highway is paved only to Puerto Montt. Chile has about 10,000 kilometers of paved road, with the region around Santiago and the Central Valley being the best served. Gravel roads total 33,140 kilometers, and improved and unimproved earth roads total 35,972 kilometers. There are about 1.1 million motorized vehicles of all kinds in Chile, including at least 700,000 automobiles and 300,000 trucks and buses. Chile's national bus service and Santiago's metro system are considered excellent. The 1991-94 program to improve the transportation infrastructure envisages construction of a new metro line in Santiago.

    As befiting a country with such a long coastline, Chile has about eighteen ports, but the country has few good natural harbors. Only four or five ports have adequate facilities, and about ten are used primarily for coastal shipping. Shipping facilities are used to capacity, with a dozen companies engaged in coastal and international trade. Coastal shipping is restricted to Chilean flag vessels. The main ports are Antofagasta, Arica, Coquimbo, Iquique, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, San Antonio, Talcahuano, and, most important, Valpara�so. The state controls port organization and approximately 40 percent of the merchant marine, which had thirtyone ships totaling 756,000 deadweight tons in 1993. Chile's inland waterways are navigable for a total of only 725 kilometers, mainly in the southern lake district. The R�o Calle Calle provides a waterway to Valdivia from at least one lake for ships up to 4,000 tons deadweight.

    Linking the country's extremes, air transport has also become an important way of moving people and freight. Chile has 351 usable airports, forty-eight with paved runways, but none with runways longer than 3,659 meters. The international airport, in Santiago, is served by eighteen international airlines and two national ones. The state carrier, National Airline (L�nea A�rea Nacional de Chile- -LAN-Chile), serves major cities in Chile and also carries passengers to other countries. Privatized in 1989, LAN-Chile merged with a new airline, Southeast Pacific, in 1992. LAN-Chile's domestic coverage is supplemented by the services of Chilean Airlines (L�nea A�rea del Cobre--Ladeco), the airline of the state copper company (Ladeco is an acronym for copper airline) and Chile's second largest carrier. Ladeco has a 52 percent share of passengers, and LAN-Chile has a 46 percent share. LAN-Chile, however, controls 84 percent of the international movement of passengers, and Ladeco controls 16 percent. In 1992 Fast Air, Chile's largest air cargo carrier, incorporated the first of three DC-8 aircraft as part of a US$75 million service improvement program.

    Data as of March 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Chile on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Chile Transportation information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Chile Transportation should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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